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Old Sichuan 老正川 – Good Sichuan Food in Chinatown

l
Lau Dec 16, 2010 04:46 PM

**For full post and pics**: http://www.lauhound.com/2010/12/old-s...

Last night I went to Old Sichuan 老正川 with some chowhound people. It is a new Sichuan restaurant that is located where the now defunct Yeah Shanghai Deluxe used to be. According to some people on chowhound, it is the same owners as Yeah Shanghai Deluxe.

The owner was extremely nice and very talkative. She runs Old Sichuan and her husband runs Old Shanghai Deluxe down the street. I’m pretty sure she is Shanghainese, but I didn’t ask her specifically. She told us that the chef at Old Sichuan is from Chengdu, which is the capital of Sichuan province. He started cooking when he was 19 and has been cooking for 30 years.

The restaurant is reasonably nice with exposed brick and this weird bridge with a rock formation and water along the wall when you first enter to the restaurant. It’s clean and much nicer looking than most Chinatown restaurants.

On to the food:
- Roasted Peanuts and Seaweed: served at the beginning of the meal. Both of them were pretty standard and self-explanatory, but they were good. 4/5
- Pickled Cabbage (Si Chuan Pao Cai): I’m not a huge fan of this generally, it’s just pickled white cabbage. It’s a good version here though, crispy cabbage, good flavor and not overly sour. 3.5/4
- Ox Tongue & Tripe with Spicy Peppery Sauce (Fu Qi Fei Pian): This a famous Sichuan dish made of thin slices of tendon, tongue and tripe served cold in spicy red oil sauce with chopped up peanuts and chili peppers. The version here is excellent, very clean tasting and you could taste both the ma (numbing sensation) and the la (spicy). I really liked this dish a lot. 4.25/5
- Sliced Pork with Spicy Garlic Sauce (Suan Ni Bai Rou): This was definitely my favorite dish of the night. The dish is thin sliced pork served cold topped with spicy red oil, garlic, chopped peanuts, diced scallions and red chili. The sauce was spicy, but really fragrant and slightly sweet. I really liked this and I could eat a whole plate of this with some rice and be happy. 4.6/5
- Pan Fried Chicken Tiny Bun (Sheng Jian Bao): Normally, I’d never order these at a Sichuan restaurant, but the owner recommended them and I believe she is Shanghainese, so it sounded like a reasonable idea. She told us how they use chicken meat instead of pork, which is the normal meat you use. The bottoms were perfectly crispy, the bun was not too doughy or thin and the meat inside was tender and flavorful. I thought these were really good. 4.4/5
- Water Cooked Fish (Shui Zhu Yu): I think this dish was actually on the specials menu which is only written in Chinese on a blackboard. In this dish, the meat is poached in water then put in a bowl with chili peppers and vegetables and then a bath of hot vegetable oil is poured over it. The result is very tender meat, but a very oily and spicy bath of sauce over it. The fish meat was excellent; it was a clean tasting white fish that was super tender although maybe too tender as it was hard to pick up. Although the sauce was quite spicy, I felt was missing something. When you have a really good version the sauce is very flavorful, but I felt it was a bit under flavored. Overall, I thought it was quite good, but not amazing. 4/5
- Shredded Potatoes with Vinegar Sauce (Suan Liu Tu Dou Si): This was interesting and was recommended by the owner. It was julienned potato strips with a few julienned sliced green peppers and carrots in it. The dish was served hot and had a sour vinegar sauce on it. I thought it was a bit plain; it would’ve been better if it more sour. I wasn’t crazy about it, it would have been better cold. 3.5/5
- Lamb with Cumin Flavor (Zi Ran Yang): This is the typical sliced lamb in cumin. The lamb was very tender here and not gamey. The cumin was not as strong as most places and was also not really noticeable on the outside like it normally is. I liked it, but I think Szechuan Gourmet’s version is better. 4/5
- Chong Qing Dry & Spicy Chicken (Chong Qing La Zi Ji): Generally, I’m not a huge fan of this dish. This is small chunks of dark meat chicken on the bone in a bath of chili. The version here is pretty decent, but I’m still not a huge fan of the dish. 3.75/5
- Sour String Beans with Minced Pork (Suan Dou Jiao Rou Mo): This looks like a Taiwanese dish called cong ying tou, but tastes completely different. It was finely diced snake beans with minced pork and some other vegetables. The beans are sour, but I found the dish oddly bland. It wasn’t bad, but didn’t have that wok flavor or anything all that distinctive about it. I feel like it could be really good, but was just decent. 3.5/5
- Sweet Eight Jewel Taro (Ba Bao Xiang Yu): This was interesting, normally ba bao fan is made with nuo mi (sticky rice), but here she told us a specialty of theirs was to make it out of taro root. It’s a mound of mashed taro that has sweet red bean paste inside it and raisins and dates on top of it. They pour a condensed milk sauce over it. Clearly, an extremely healthy dish! I liked it a lot though, however it is a very Chinese old people type of dish, so I’m quite certain there are a lot of people who would disagree and not like it at all. 4/5

Overall, it was a mix of some very good dishes and some decent dishes, but a lot of promise. I thought the dishes were probably a little better executed than most Sichuan restaurants in the city. I definitely plan on coming back, so I would recommend trying this place out.

-----
Old Shanghai Deluxe
50 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

Old Sichuan
65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

  1. t
    tex.s.toast Dec 25, 2011 09:09 PM

    funny to see this thread updated as we also had xmas eve dinner here - it was our first visit and overall very positive. the sheng jian bao were not as juicy as id have liked, and definitely not as good flavor-wise or juicy-wise as 456's (though i appreciate the more manageable size at OS). the cold pork with spicy garlic sauce was awesome - a bit fatty but not in a deleterious way, it was somewhat strange to eat cold pork belly but the thin slices and acidic, pungent, spicy and oily sauce was great. we had an order of pea shoots which were good if kinda basic, not anything special but well done, a decent portion for slightly more than we would have liked to pay (12.95 i think - can anyone explain why they are expensive?). The last dish we got was a whole fish with hot bean sauce- the sauce was good, well spiced with a solid vinegar component and a bunch of green onion and fermented beans, but the fish was a tad muddy and very bony, not something we felt compelled to order again. I saw some chong qing crab on a neighboring table that looked totally awesome, and the service was very friendly especially given how crowded/hectic things seemed to be during the christmas rush.

    -----
    Old Sichuan
    65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

    4 Replies
    1. re: tex.s.toast
      p
      Pan Dec 26, 2011 02:54 PM

      Pea leaves are always expensive. I don't know why; they don't see scarce, but they are one of the tastiest vegetables, so they are prized by Chinese people.

      1. re: tex.s.toast
        buttertart Dec 26, 2011 04:23 PM

        The fish was most likely tilapia, and it does have a slightly muddy taste, but their version of that dish is my favorite in the city.
        Glad you enjoyed the meal. They're very nice there, too.

        1. re: tex.s.toast
          huiray Dec 26, 2011 05:17 PM

          Just out of curiosity - what would you have liked to pay for the pea shoots dish? If you got the same dish in a good Western cuisine restaurant in NYC what would you have expected to pay for it?

          1. re: tex.s.toast
            t
            tex.s.toast Dec 27, 2011 07:38 AM

            I guess i am used to paying more for pea shoots, and i do like them better than other vegetable options but it seems like they are priced like protein. the vegetable dishes at OS are like 8 - 10 bucks, chicken and pork 12ish and up and fish is in the 16-20 dollar range (the whole tilapia dish was, i believe 18.95). when i buy them at the grocery store pea shoots are priced like vegetables, it just always makes me curious why they get priced like meat on menus - especially when i know that its not the preparation that adds extra value, they are just stir fry-ed up with some garlic.

          2. buttertart Dec 25, 2011 05:10 PM

            Christmas lunch at a very busy Old Sichuan today -- xiaolong bao (nice and juicy), sheng jian bao (also nice and juicy inside), red-cooked pork with chestnuts, hot and garlicky jielan, fish with pickled peppers, some of the staff lunch fried rice pressed upon us by the proprietress (and very tasty it was), two stuffed and happy us.

            -----
            Old Sichuan
            65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

             
             
             
             
             
             
            3 Replies
            1. re: buttertart
              l
              Lau Dec 25, 2011 06:14 PM

              looks great!

              how was the red cooked pork and the fish with pickled peppers?

              1. re: Lau
                buttertart Dec 26, 2011 04:27 PM

                The redcooked pork was very good - nice big pieces of pork belly, tender, well-flavored. The duo jiao yu (fish with pickled peppers) was maybe not quite as good as it normally is (a little slapped-together, they were extremely busy), but was very enjoyable (it was tilapia, I asked if they had bass but they only had tilapia which I know you're not fond of and isn't my favorite fish either).

                1. re: buttertart
                  l
                  Lau Dec 26, 2011 06:31 PM

                  ah interesting, sounds good

            2. JungMann Mar 21, 2011 07:56 AM

              I finally got myself to Old Sichuan not realizing I had been to this space plenty of times before for XLB when I was in college, though the interior is quite the interesting upgrade.

              When we were seated, we got the complimentary peanuts, but I had to ask for a platter of the seaweed. I was quite glad I did as they were unexpectedly spicy and rather tasty. For starters we tried soup dumplings with pork which were not quite my cup of tea. The wrapper was a bit tough and the soup was fishy rather than sweet and briny as I had expected. We continued with sheng jian bao which was indeed good. I was surprised with how juicy they were considering it was chicken, though like others I would've preferred pork. Next up: dan dan noodles which were not very ma la at all. I much prefer the dan dan noodles at Wa Jeal or Grand Sichuan over these.

              We noticed that every table in the half full restaurant had an order of Chongqing chicken, which we avoided based on reviews here, though perhaps the dish has been improved if it is so popular. I tried to get my companions to try the suan ni bai rou, but they weren't biting, particularly as they got very full after having the sheng jian bao as an appetizer. I'm definitely eager to come back, even if on my own, to try the fuqi feipian.

              -----
              Wa Jeal
              1588 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028

              Old Sichuan
              65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

              13 Replies
              1. re: JungMann
                buttertart Mar 21, 2011 08:22 AM

                We were there yesterday with fellow CHers, too bad we didn't bump into you! The soup dumplings we had were good - do not like their crab ones at all, we always get the pork ones.
                We've known the one lady who works there since she was at the first GS on Canal by the Manhattan Bridge, so she always takes care of us with the seaweed and pao cai.
                In addition to the XLB and the sheng jian bao we had the cumin lamb (I like theirs a lot, and so did our company) and the suan dou rou mou (pickled long beans with ground pork), which was entirely new to the others and they liked it a lot.
                You should have the duo jiao yu (salted chili fish) or the la dou ban yu (hot bean sauce fish)next time, both are steamed and are excellent! renditions.
                Complimentary dessert - red bean pancake, blistering hot -

                 
                1. re: buttertart
                  JungMann Mar 21, 2011 08:38 AM

                  What a shame we missed each other! I was traveling with friends for whom steamed fish might have been an unpassable test of our friendship. I did see a few Chinese tables with fish served in a tureen that did pique my interest, though.

                  1. re: buttertart
                    linguafood Mar 21, 2011 08:48 AM

                    Those pancakes were awesome. And the pickled beans were great - never had 'em before. Cumin lamb was also a success.

                    The only thing, if anything, that was missing, was a young man. '-)

                    1. re: buttertart
                      l
                      Lau Mar 21, 2011 10:35 AM

                      sounds good, i need to get back there to try the fish and cumin lamb. wasn't a huge fan of those pickled beans though

                      that lady is really nice btw

                      1. re: Lau
                        buttertart Mar 21, 2011 10:56 AM

                        The taller one? Bossy in a nice way.
                        The cumin lamb is quite moist, rather different from some versions.

                        1. re: buttertart
                          l
                          Lau Mar 21, 2011 11:01 AM

                          ehh i dont think she was all that tall? she's the owner i believe, she was really nice when were there although she's definitely sales-y

                          1. re: Lau
                            buttertart Mar 21, 2011 11:09 AM

                            That was the owner then. She and her husband own that place and Yeah on Mott and Bayard. She's always very nice to us, even gave us some staff meal hongshao spareibs once (good, too).
                            The one we know best is thinner and a bit taller, maybe she wasn't there when you went.

                            1. re: buttertart
                              l
                              Lau Mar 21, 2011 12:33 PM

                              yah the two people who kept coming up to talk to us was the owner lady and then some dude who was pretty nice as well

                              1. re: Lau
                                buttertart Mar 21, 2011 12:34 PM

                                They are all quite nice. The son has posted with regard to Yeah Shanghai at the corner before, maybe it was he.

                                1. re: buttertart
                                  l
                                  Lau Mar 21, 2011 12:49 PM

                                  hey - have you gone to the place on the corner yet? its getting destroyed on yelp, but i dont always trust people on yelp b/c some of them have no idea what to order. the owner lady at old sichuan was saying that it was very good, but she obviously is biased

                                  http://www.yelp.com/biz/old-shanghai-...

                                  1. re: Lau
                                    buttertart Mar 21, 2011 01:14 PM

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6888...
                                    At least 8 times in the last year, yes. It's not the best Shanghainese in the city (for the classy stuff, we love Tang Pavilion, seriously, go there) but it's solid. I've posted about it several times. bigjeff liked it too.
                                    Some photos from recent visits - a lamb chop dish from their new menu (I think it's just called kao yang pai), the fried fish with seaweed powder and pork chop bits (zha shuang wei), the bai ye with soybeans, pork strips (you have to ask for the pork) and xuelihong (xue cai bai ye mao dou rou si) , and Shanghai cai xin. The fish/pork thing and the bai ye thing are favorites.

                                    -----
                                    Tang Pavilion
                                    65 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                                     
                                     
                                     
                                     
                                    1. re: buttertart
                                      JungMann Mar 21, 2011 05:32 PM

                                      If the Shanghainese is good at Old Sichuan is the Szechuanese any good at Old Shanghai Deluxe? I was there a couple weeks ago and surprised to see they had fuqi feipian.

                                      -----
                                      Old Shanghai Deluxe
                                      50 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                                      Old Sichuan
                                      65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

                                      1. re: JungMann
                                        buttertart Mar 22, 2011 06:00 AM

                                        Haven't seen that many Sichuan dishes on the menu and when we go Shanghainese we never order outside that cuisine (my husband's absolute favorite of any, Chinese or Western).
                                        Sichuan food has been popular in Shanghai for a long time, in part because of the rice trade down the Yangzi and the people traveling to/sojourning in Shanghai because of it, so it's not that surprising to see some dishes on a menu.

                  2. p
                    pedestrian Jan 2, 2011 02:50 AM

                    So I was there for HotPot last night. Not a good idea. It's more economical and comprehensive at Quickly and both pale in comparison to HotPot at home.

                    While scanning the menu, I spotted the Chairman Mao section. In particular I was eying the 臘肉, a smoke aged pork, dishes. This is a specialty of Hunan, not Sichuan. (This type of pork was a favorite of Mao's.) Despite the regional inconsistency, I really want to try it since 1) I don't think it's available in too many place, 2) they can probably do a good job since their business is to make ChongQing style spicy HotPot. (Yes, 臘肉 isn't the ChongQing numb-spice 麻辣, but still.)

                    Has any one tried it and can comment or recommend some place better?

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: pedestrian
                      l
                      Lau Jan 2, 2011 01:48 PM

                      the chef is apparently from grand sichuan on st marks, which for some reason had a reasonable amount of hunan dishes on its menu (not exactly sure why b/c he is from chengdu). When i used to go to GS st marks alot, the la rou was one of my go to dishes even though it wasn't sichuan cai and it was good, but i have not tried it at old sichuan, so i can verify one way or the other, but i would figure it would be similar to GS

                      1. re: Lau
                        buttertart Jan 2, 2011 03:42 PM

                        Most of the GS restaurants have had Mao-style sections since they opened. Next-door province (more or less, given Chongqing) therefore close enough, I guess. Also the Mao nostalgia craze may have something to do with it..

                        1. re: buttertart
                          ChiefHDB Jan 22, 2011 08:32 AM

                          Five of us met up on a recent Sunday afternoon to check out Old Sichuan. All in all a very good meal, and a nice addition to the expanding galaxy of Sichuan restaurants in the city.

                          Seaweed salad and peanuts were offered when we first sat down, allowing me to snack while flipping through the menu. After ordering, dan dan noodles arrived first. It was a solid rendition, with thinner noodles, but not much of a standout (I've completely forgotten it already, not a good sign). Pan fried chicken tiny buns (sheng jian bao), a Shanghainese dish, were ordered based on Lau's recommendation. I've never had these before, so I can't compare, but they provided a milder counterpoint to the much heavier seasoned Sichuan dishes. I thought they were fine, but others complained that the skins were too thick.

                          Sliced tongue and tripe was one of the standouts of the day (although not my favorite rendition ever-- Hunan House is still the champion). The vinaigrette contained plenty of Sichuan peppercorns and chili heat to counterpoint the tender pieces of tongue and chewy tripe.

                          I think we ordered three pepper chicken, or "chicken with peppers and chili sauce" as it was described (correct me if I'm wrong). It was on the specials menu (and came recommended by our waitress). Each component had an aggressive wok sear that brought out a mildly smokey flavor in the dish.

                          My favorite of the day was likely the water cooked fish. The fish is essentially covered in a boiling hot flavored oil, infusing it with the flavor of chiles and Sichuan peppercorns along with floating pieces of cabbage and tofu. As good a version of this dish as I've ever had, this will make anybody sweat.

                          Cumin lamb was fine, but a completely forgettable rendition with not enough cumin and a too-soft texture that did nothing for me.

                          For vegetables, we ordered green beans topped with ground beef (always a good vegetable benchmark at a Sichuan restaurant) and sweet and sour lotus root. The picture of the green beans clearly shows the wok sear, which imparted an extra layer of flavor and texture to the dish. Very good. Crunch lotus root was pleasant to munch on after eating one too many pieces of water cooked fish.

                          Since most of us are professional gluttons, we finished almost everything (no need for takeout boxes). They gave us something fried with red bean paste in it for dessert too (and we popped into a Chinese bakery afterwards).

                          Pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lawandfo...

                          -----
                          Old Sichuan
                          65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

                          1. re: ChiefHDB
                            l
                            Lau Jan 22, 2011 01:09 PM

                            glad you enjoyed. you shoudl really try that pork in spicy garlic sauce, it's really good

                            1. re: Lau
                              ChiefHDB Jan 22, 2011 01:21 PM

                              Yeah, I was ready to order it, then blanked once everyone started adding their own suggestions. Definitely next time.

                            2. re: ChiefHDB
                              d
                              diprey11 Jan 22, 2011 03:46 PM

                              I think the name of the dumplings is simply 生煎包 , right? If so, the skin could be a little bit thinner (well, it's pan fried, so it would have a completely different mouthfeel) but the shapes and the colors are absolutely perfect. Very well executed! Hope it tasted great, too.

                              1. re: diprey11
                                buttertart Jan 23, 2011 05:07 AM

                                The dough is different for these, it's raised, not meant to be a thin dumpling skin.

                                1. re: buttertart
                                  l
                                  Lau Jan 23, 2011 10:03 AM

                                  diprey11 - yes these are sheng jian bao, i thought the thickness was just right, the skins are only very slightly thinner at good places like xiao yang in shanghai

                      2. p
                        Pan Dec 27, 2010 03:20 PM

                        My brother and I had an early dinner at Old Sichuan tonight. We ate the Sichuan Pickled Cabbage, the Spicy Chicken cold dish, and the Mapo Tofu. The waiter recognized me (more about that later), and I told him we liked Sichuan food and wanted everything spicy and real. Our food was not tremendously spicy, but it did taste real and good, except that nothing really had any ma (Sichuan pepper), and Mapo Tofu definitely should have noticeable ma. I thought it was all homey and good, though, and I was especially happy the place was open on a snowy night when a majority of restaurants were closed, and after the meal, I had a good taste and nice hot pepper buzz in my mouth.

                        We found out something interesting. Our waiter, Michael, told me after our meal that he had recognized me because he used to deliver orders from Grand Sichuan St Marks to my apartment in the East Village (I recognized him but thought it might have been from the old Yeah Shanghai days). He further told us that the chef at Old Sichuan used to be the chef at Grand Sichuan St Marks, which explains why the Sichuan (intermixed with some Hunan) menus at Old Sichuan are very similar to the old menus at that location of Grand Sichuan, and also why there are new menus now at Grand Sichuan that added dishes (some of them very good) and subtracted others, some of which I liked and used to order a lot (for example, the Sweet and Sour Lotus Roots).

                        The price was good: $23 and change plus tip. I will go back but, with the caveat that we didn't order the much-praised Doban Yu on this trip, I was not as impressed with this meal as I was with my meal at Legend last week.

                        -----
                        Old Sichuan
                        65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

                        Legend
                        88 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: Pan
                          l
                          Lau Dec 27, 2010 03:29 PM

                          that is interesting b/c great sichuan has the other head chef from grand sichuan st marks (he's one of the co-owners of great sichuan), the manager from great sichuan who've ive known for years told me that the he was "one of the two head chefs), so i bet the other head chef is the head chef from old sichuan

                          next time you go i'd highly suggest the 1) Ox Tongue & Tripe with Spicy Peppery Sauce (Fu Qi Fei Pian) 2) Sliced Pork with Spicy Garlic Sauce (Suan Ni Bai Rou) and 3) Pan Fried Chicken Tiny Bun (Sheng Jian Bao). Even though sheng jian bao aren't sichuan, old sichuan has the best in the city. The fu qi fei pian and suan ni bai rou are really good. These dishes alone are worth going to old sichuan for

                          overtime i've sort of come to the conclusion that there isn't a "best sichuan" restaurant in the city rather the good ones each happen to have certain dishes that they make very well, but others that are much weaker

                          1. re: Lau
                            buttertart Dec 27, 2010 03:54 PM

                            We had a very good lunch there last Friday (the buns, jielan with garlic and hot pepper, jiachang doufu - really excellent, cumin lamb, and the douban yu - exactly as remembered) but did notice there wasn't any Sichuan pepper in any of the dishes - brought to mind by a bowl of I think shui zhu yu being borne to another table that was redolent of it. I wouldn't expect too much huajiao on what we ordered but a bit would have been nice. Must try the suan ni bai rou, I love that dish and had forgotten your recommendation. Next time.

                            1. re: Lau
                              p
                              Pan Dec 27, 2010 04:12 PM

                              I'm unfamiliar with Great Sichuan and just Googled it. It seems to be on 3rd Av. between 26th and 27th. When I'm in that neighborhood, I usually have South Indian vegetarian food on Lexington. How long has Great Sichuan been around?

                              -----
                              Great Sichuan
                              363 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10016

                              1. re: Pan
                                k
                                kathryn Dec 27, 2010 05:02 PM

                                Since July?
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/723163

                                1. re: kathryn
                                  bigjeff Dec 30, 2010 10:41 PM

                                  walked by recently; the place was empty on a weekday night but it looked legit.

                              2. re: Lau
                                buttertart Dec 28, 2010 05:33 AM

                                You're right about the best dishes at each restaurant, it's the same in Taipei of course - when you have a range of restaurants of one cuisine you can pick and choose depending on what you really feel most like. Lucky we are.

                                1. re: Lau
                                  Bob Martinez Dec 28, 2010 06:20 AM

                                  "overtime i've sort of come to the conclusion that there isn't a "best sichuan" restaurant in the city rather the good ones each happen to have certain dishes that they make very well, but others that are much weaker."

                                  Agreed.
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7550...

                                  1. re: Bob Martinez
                                    ChiefHDB Dec 28, 2010 06:34 AM

                                    In that case, we should arrange a meetup where everyone grabs the standout dishes from all Sichuan restos in the city and have a mammoth feast...

                                    Either way, I need to check out Old Sichuan soon.

                                    -----
                                    Old Sichuan
                                    65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

                                    1. re: ChiefHDB
                                      buttertart Dec 28, 2010 06:52 AM

                                      Or better, a progressive dinner. Food would be better steaming hot.

                              3. bigjeff Dec 19, 2010 07:36 PM

                                reading this thread now; funny.
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/751101

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bigjeff
                                  buttertart Dec 20, 2010 05:08 AM

                                  Yeah and I just stuck my neck out on Berkeley back in the day - we didn't eat Chinese food out for years after we came back after being in Taipei because what was available was so poor. Maybe you could have a hot pepper eating contest but that was as close as you'd get to zhen wei chuan cai.

                                2. E Eto Dec 19, 2010 09:45 AM

                                  Another attendee with Lau, Bigjeff, and Silverjay. I was very pleased with the dinner at Old Sichuan, especially getting a succession of typical Sichuan dishes that I usually don't get to have with my usual Japanese dining companions. This was a good opportunity not only to taste a number of different dishes, but to taste against some of the Sichuan places I tend to frequent around town, like Little Pepper and Spicy and Tasty in Flushing, Sweet Yummy House in Elmhurst, and even Andy's Seafood in Rego Park (a Taiwanese place serving a bunch of Sichuan dishes).

                                  I concur that the appetizers packed a bigger wallop than the entree dishes. The cold sliced pork and the cold tongue/tripe dish (no tendon in there by the way) were especially good. I'll have to try the versions at Sweet Yummy House and Andy's (as they are present on both menus).

                                  I really enjoyed the water-cooked fish (in hot oil). It sat right next to me, and I kept going back for more, and actually, those oil-soaked vegetables were really tasty. Andy's Seafood in Rego Park offers this dish on their $5.50 lunch menu, and it's really good, and not much different from the version at Old Sichuan, IMO. Sweet Yummy House also has an entire section of water-cooked dishes on their menu besides the fish fillet. I'll have to give them a try.

                                  The shredded potatoes in vinegar sauce is one of my go-to dishes at Sichuan restaurants and this one didn't disappoint. I'm not sure if this dish ever disappoints. I first had it years ago at GoBuLi in Flushing, and I find it a great side-dish to balance out the hot spicy oily stuff. I get this dish at almost every Sichuan place I visit, or even at the Sichuan takeout places in the food courts in Flushing, and I guess I'm in the minority as I do enjoy it warm/hot. For a cold version of this, try the one at Golden Palace (the NE Chinese place in Flushing), or the best cold version I've had was in LA at the Korean/Xi'an cook-it-yourself skewer joint call Feng Mao Kabab.

                                  Pretty much on the boat with the others about the cumin lamb, sour beans with pork, and the chong qing chicken. I also enjoyed the dumplings. With dumplings, texture plays such an important role, and I've never had these kinds of dumpling made as perfectly with the interplay of the crispy bottom, the thick steamed bread wrapper, and the juicy meat. I'm not crazy about the Shanghai style black vinegar, but I did use the hot oils on my plate from the other dishes as a dipping sauce, and found it to be the right partner for these dumplings.

                                  If I wasn't so full, I probably would have enjoyed the eight jewel taro dessert more. I like that combination of flavors of beans and starch and dried fruit, covered in sweet condensed milk. I think I would enjoy the sticky rice version more, but I did like the taro quite a bit. It was like a warm sweet version of mofongo. Really heavy for a dessert after a filling oily meal.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: E Eto
                                    buttertart Dec 19, 2010 03:51 PM

                                    Those sheng jian bao are some of the best bao in the city.

                                    1. re: buttertart
                                      l
                                      Lau Dec 19, 2010 07:30 PM

                                      i think they are the best one in the city considering they basically dont really have any real competitors, most sheng jian bao in the city are pretty bad and old sichuan actually makes a pretty respectable version

                                      1. re: Lau
                                        buttertart Dec 20, 2010 05:06 AM

                                        The dumplingmakers are Shanghainese (as is the owner), their xiaolong tang bao can be excellent or just very good depending on who rolled out the skins. (Not unusual for Shanghainese to be involved in Sichuan restaurants, the connection goes back a long time with the rice trade down the Yangzi and accompanying sojourners from Sichuan taking up residence at least part of the year in Shanghai.)

                                    2. re: E Eto
                                      bigjeff Dec 19, 2010 07:30 PM

                                      mofongo for dessert. that was a pretty rich meal, yeah.

                                    3. a
                                      AubWah Dec 19, 2010 09:35 AM

                                      I like the ambiance and location of Famous Sichuan better, and I doubt the food at Old Sichuan is better. All the chefs at Famous Sichuan are trained and certified in the Sichuan province and they don't smoke near the food.

                                      -----
                                      Famous Sichuan
                                      10 Pell St, New York, NY 10013

                                      Old Sichuan
                                      65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

                                      1. huiray Dec 17, 2010 10:12 PM

                                        I'm just curious about the phrase - 老正川 (the restaurant's name)
                                        Is this how "Old Sichuan" is written in Chinese? ( 老 is 'old' [lau] but the province Sichuan/Szechuan is normally 四川 in my understanding)(Or is it "old is Sichuan", using 川 (river) in the common 'shorthand reference' to Sichuan?) I hadn't thought about it before.

                                        13 Replies
                                        1. re: huiray
                                          l
                                          Lau Dec 18, 2010 12:45 AM

                                          well actually si chuan actually means 4 rivers (if you go to sichuan its b/c there are a bunch of rivers there). alot of times you'll see 川 without the 四, so it will be something like 川 菜 which is short hand for sichuan food. as far as 老正, i'm not sure what that means it just seems like a name to me and yeah 老 means old.

                                          1. re: Lau
                                            scoopG Dec 18, 2010 05:11 AM

                                            Right! 老正川 (Lao3 Zheng4 Chuan1) just means "Old Sichuan" I think. 川 (Chuan1) yes is another name for Sichuan and 川菜 (Chuan1 Cai4) means Sichuan Cuisine. 正 (Zheng4) is a homophone but here I think means upright or correct and together all three characters just mean Old Sichuan.

                                            1. re: scoopG
                                              huiray Dec 18, 2010 05:28 AM

                                              Thanks, Lau & scoopG. Yes, I am aware that 川 is often used as a 'shorthand' for Sichuan as I mentioned (and that 四川 is 'four rivers' referring to the 4 main rivers that flow through the province). I hadn't consciously noticed "老正川" being used as equivalent to "Old Sichuan" before. That's what I was asking about. [In Cantonese I seem to remember 正 is 'cheng' - middle flat tone (not Wade-Giles, just my own approximation)]

                                              1. re: huiray
                                                buttertart Dec 18, 2010 06:38 AM

                                                I took it as a contraction of Lao3 (zhen1) zheng4 chuan4 (cai4) - old real authentic Sichuan food - you often see zhen zheng as a modifier for a cuisine.

                                                1. re: buttertart
                                                  huiray Dec 18, 2010 06:40 AM

                                                  Ah ha! That makes sense. Thanks.

                                                  1. re: huiray
                                                    buttertart Dec 19, 2010 06:56 AM

                                                    Except it should be chuan1, my bad.

                                                    1. re: buttertart
                                                      huiray Dec 19, 2010 08:37 AM

                                                      No problem. :-) I assumed you meant 川 .

                                                      1. re: huiray
                                                        buttertart Dec 20, 2010 05:02 AM

                                                        Yes indeed.

                                                2. re: huiray
                                                  p
                                                  pedestrian Jan 2, 2011 02:35 AM

                                                  In Cantonese 正 is jing3 in Yale Romanization, which is the standard.

                                                3. re: scoopG
                                                  p
                                                  pedestrian Jan 2, 2011 02:41 AM

                                                  Any instance of 老 at a restaurant is meant to connote the same thing as "est. 18xx" in English.

                                                  正 here is shorthand for 正宗, which translates best to "authentic" in this case. "Orthodox" would be close direct translation, but that often carries negative connotation in English.

                                                  川 is a shorthand for 四川.

                                                4. re: Lau
                                                  p
                                                  panjuice Dec 26, 2011 06:36 PM

                                                  正 .. can tranalate as 海派/hai pai .. meaning traditional and if referencing a person, one can be seen as a purist ..

                                                  1. re: panjuice
                                                    Cheeryvisage Dec 27, 2011 07:41 AM

                                                    I translate the restaurant name as "Old Authentic Sichuan". 正 is short for 正宗, meaning authentic.

                                                    Lao = old

                                                    Zheng = authentic

                                                    Chuan = Sichuan

                                                    1. re: Cheeryvisage
                                                      buttertart Dec 27, 2011 10:18 AM

                                                      Me too, see above. Your version is more elegant.

                                              2. buttertart Dec 17, 2010 03:48 PM

                                                I've only been saying this place was good for how long now? Nice to see it get the recognition it deserves.

                                                1. Silverjay Dec 17, 2010 10:42 AM

                                                  Dined with these gents at OS. Some more perspective on the dishes:

                                                  Ox Tongue & Tripe with Spicy Peppery Sauce- Excellent dish. If you’re deft enough with chopsticks, you can snag a little bit of everything in one grab and get the crunchy tripe, chewy tendon, along with the juicy tongue for a pleasant contrast in toothiness. The ma la comes on nicely and then you blast it all away with a swig of Tsingtao. And of course repeat. Great dish.

                                                  Sliced Pork with Spicy Garlic Sauce- If you describe this dish to a Shichuan neophyte, it does not sound appealing- A cold oily dish, with fried garlic bits, and slices of cold fatty pork. But yeah, this was great. I believe it is sliced pork shoulder- tender meat, some slices with a nice margin of fat. My favorite dish as well.

                                                  Pan Fried Chicken Tiny Bun- Not my scene. I would have preferred pork, rather than chicken. And it’s very filling to eat them early in the meal. The slight char on the bottom of the buns though, was nice.….I hope he doesn’t mind, but I’m gonna reveal Big Jeff’s methodology with these buns. See, he takes one, pries open the crimp on the top with his chopsticks, then gently pours in some vinegar, then reseals the crimp. Then he eats. What a strategy. Do they teach that in Chinese finishing school?

                                                  Shredded Potatoes with Vinegar Sauce- Agree with Lau on this one. Would’ve been better chilled. But I ate a lot of it because it was one of the only things not served in oil.

                                                  Lamb with Cumin Flavor- I prefer gamier tasting meat. Also, I think the onions were undercooked. I like Little Pepper’s version better. Onions are slightly caramelized and sweet and they top the entire dish with cilantro as well. This version was fine but nothing special.

                                                  Chong Qing Dry & Spicy Chicken- I guess some people snack on the peppers, but the entire dish really comes down to about a fistful worth of hacked bits of chicken on bone. I wouldn’t mind a small bowl with just this to nosh on as an appetizer. This was a decent rendition in that most of the chicken bits were not overfried and hard.

                                                  Sour String Beans with Minced Pork- First time I can recall eating these type of beans. I liked the dish and thought the beans were sour enough. But the meat could have been seasoned more. To eat this, you need to spoon some on top of rice.

                                                  Water Cooked Fish- I liked this dish. Lau calls it sauce, but I found it kind of an oily soup. The soggy oil-laden vegetables were I thought unpalatable, but the fish was cooked perfectly and I thought seasoned well so that the subtle sweetness in the meat came out. I didn’t have much problems picking up stuff with my chopsticks. Silverjay chopsticks 5/5, Lau 4.5/5.

                                                  Sweet Eight Jewel Taro- Interesting to try. It’s not particularly sweet and it’s rather heavy for a dessert. All things considered, I’m not really a fan of taro and bean derived desserts. I prolly coulda gone next door and been more satisfied with a lychee ice cream cone. But I’m glad I tried this dish.

                                                  Enjoyed the meal and the company. Definitely want to check out some more of the specials.

                                                  1. scoopG Dec 17, 2010 12:57 AM

                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7424...

                                                    1. ChiefHDB Dec 16, 2010 05:38 PM

                                                      Great writeup Lau (although it sounds like Bigjeff may have liked the food a little more than you). This place is near my office and has been on my list for awhile. Definitely need to check it out.

                                                      Also, after that other thread, I'm going to start saying "ma and la" now.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: ChiefHDB
                                                        l
                                                        Lau Dec 16, 2010 06:00 PM

                                                        well actually i enjoyed it alot although there were a few dishes that were good, but nothing special. its def worth checking out, it is one of the better sichuan restaurants in the city. ill def be back to find more dishes, there were alot of dishes that i wanted to try, but i can only eat so much

                                                        1. re: Lau
                                                          p
                                                          Pan Dec 16, 2010 06:20 PM

                                                          I don't think we expect you to do one of those contests to set a record in the amount you eat in one sitting. :-)

                                                          I used to be a regular when that place was Yeah Shanghai Deluxe. I'll go back and check out some of their Sichuan dishes.

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